EDA actions pose questions of leadership

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2009

In January 2008, I made the following statement about leadership: “We call upon our leaders to make decisions based upon fact not rumor.”

One year later it seems as if the supervisors are still making decisions first and asking questions later.

If supervisors had read the law they are sworn to follow, sought legal advice before risking embarrassment and had practiced some common sense, we might not be asking these and other obvious questions.

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Why was it critical to abruptly pull funding from the EDA now?

Four months ago, the Adams County Board of Supervisors adopted a budget that fully funded the Natchez-Adams County EDA.

At that time, supervisor President Henry Watts took pride in saying that he wanted to literally go over the budget line item by line item to see where they could cut out excessive spending.

After poring over the budget he approved, Watts now says that he hadn’t realized that the EDA funds from the budget were allocated from a .91 mil tax.

How closely did Watts and other supervisors look at the budget?

If there was a problem with the EDA, why hadn’t supervisors expressed their concerns with EDA board members or Mayor Jake Middleton and the Natchez Board of Aldermen?

Over and over again in Monday morning’s joint meeting, city leaders and EDA board members said that they didn’t know the county had a problem with the EDA until they read it in news reports.

If county leaders had evidence to show that the current EDA was broken, why had they not expressed these concerns with the city?

Even though the city and the county share the responsibility of funding the EDA, supervisors did not feel it necessary to notify other leaders of their concerns.

Unfortunately, city leaders were not the only ones left in dark.

Why were potential industries not notified of the county’s intentions?

From all accounts, county leaders felt no compulsion to notify officials at Rentech or any other company that was considering bringing jobs and development to our area.

Imagine what Rentech officials may have thought when they discovered the EDA, with whom they kept in contact, was suddenly in jeopardy.

What does the county’s sudden gamble to put at risk current industrial deals, say about its commitment to new jobs in the area?

Why did the county wait until after they pulled funding to ask the attorney general’s office about the legality of their decision?

Why hadn’t they familiarized themselves with the law that created EDA in the first place?

Both city and county leaders looked dumbfounded Monday morning when they discovered that they were to have met jointly every August to discuss EDA funding.

It took city Alderman Dan Dillard to point this out and other stipulations spelled out in the law.

We are a city and county ruled by laws. We elect our leaders to understand the law, act within the law and, yes on occassion, question the law. But we do not elect them to break the law. If our leaders want laws changed, they know how to get them changed.

To be sure, there are issues that need to be addressed concerning the EDA. Most agreed that Monday’s meeting was a good start to a long conversation about this important issue.

Unfortunately, the recent actions of the Adams County Board of Supervisors bring up more serious questions about how our leaders are leading.

Ben Hillyer is web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540.